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Here’s How to Keep Your Workers Safe in Extreme Heat

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Labor Day has passed, signifying the unofficial end of summer, but the season isn’t actually over yet. Fall starts September 22, but that doesn’t mean temperatures will automatically acclimate.

In many parts of the country, the fall months can be scorchers, so it’s important to keep your workers safe from the heat. Working outside in hot weather takes a toll on the body, no matter what month it is, so use these tips to help your team stay healthy.

Watch for Heat Illness

If proper precautions aren’t taken, heat illness can lead to serious illnesses — i.e., heat stroke — or even death. Other sicknesses, including heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash are also incredibly uncomfortable, but the good news is, they’re completely avoidable.

Both you and your team need to know the risk factors for heat illness. This will help everyone keep a watchful eye on working conditions, so you know when to make adjustments. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, risk factors include:

  • High temperatures and humidity
  • Direct exposure to sunlight
  • No breeze or wind
  • Heavy manual labor
  • Zero recent exposure to hot workplaces
  • Minimal liquid intake
  • Wearing waterproof clothing

Despite being aware of risk factors, some employees might still fall ill. OSHA sites common symptoms of heat exhaustion as headache, dizziness or fainting; weakness and wet skin; irritability or confusion; and thirst, nausea or vomiting. If the person stops sweating, this could be a telltale sign of heat stroke, along with confusion, passing out, collapsing or seizures, according to the Agency.

Operate on a Modified Work Schedule

During heatwaves, keeping a close watch on the weather is essential. Tools like OSHA’s Heat Smartphone App, a Wet Bulb Globe Thermometer, and the National Weather Service Heat Index can let you know when temperatures are nearing unsafe levels.

When temperatures reach sky-high levels, adjusting work schedules can be a smart way to lower your team’s exposure to heat, recommends OSHA. This could involve completely rescheduling all non-essential activities for a cooler day or at least shifting things around to ensure the most demanding work is completed during the coolest parts of the day. It’s also wise to consider splitting shifts and increasing your staff to lower fatigue.

The agency also advises always having employees stop work if the risk of heat illness is too great, because you can’t put a price on someone’s health. If you’re thinking of calling employees into work early, do realize humidity levels will likely be higher, along with employee fatigue, as getting up early will leave people exhausted, warns OSHA.

Keeping your team safe on the job should always be your top priority. Check the MAC Incorporated blog regularly for the latest tips to keep workers healthy and protected on your watch. The next time you need to hire, contact us to find engineering, maintenance and operations management professionals who put safety first!

 

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